Cairo's Downtown in Narratives: From Singularity to Hardship

Cairo's Downtown in Narratives: From Singularity to Hardship

Mougibelrahman Aboamer (Misr International University (MIU), Egypt & University Grenoble Alpes, France) and Dalia Abdelfattah (Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, Egypt)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9238-9.ch016


Cairo's downtown, through sociopolitical conditions, had been moved from a single city to a hardship one. The authors attempt using a method of multiple readings to provide a new comprehension for the city by using the historical review side by side with several examples from Egyptian literature that describes this dramatic evolution. For this neighborhood, it is considered an active part of Cairo. The period they suggest for scanning the literature begins from Cairo Great Fire in 1952 and its consequences. The year of 1952 and the constitution of the first republic until the dramatic fall of this last by the revolution of January 2011. This chapter aims to articulate the evolution of Downtown Cairo from the singularity to the hardship.
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Cairo’s Downtown evolution is the focus of the present research. The period was limited and selecting between since the 30th until the second decade of the third millennium. The review emphases on the turning points that influenced the area, deforming and its characteristics from a district of singularity hosted by the elites to a zone of hardship that lacks the essential levels of the quality of life (Abaza, 2006; AlSayyad, 2011; Ashour, 2003; El Kadi G., 2012; Mitchell, 2002). This analysis is considered an approach for re-tracing its character, comprehending its qualities, and understanding its overlapped layers of history. The current work goes in depth through looking for traces and mapping of its historical, political, social, and urban deformations.

Arguably, Cairo Downtown has suffered from substantial sociopolitical changes since the second half of the twentieth century (Ashour, 2003; Awatta, 2015; Taher, 2008). These changes are seen in the shift from its glorious birth of a unique urban setting and architecture character, combining European styles with local influences and materials (Ashour, 2003; Abu-Lughod, 1971; AlSayyad, 2011; El Kadi & Kerdany, 2006; El Kadi & Kerdany, 2006; Hawas, 2001; Myntti, 1999). The district has a feature of hardship living (Elshahed, 2007; Haykal, 1973; Sims, 2012).

In this work, the characteristics of the cities of hardship are addressed to describe the lacking the essential quality of life principles. These are seen in the gradual replacement of famous palaces and villas by commercial activities on the ground floors of residential and mixed-use buildings.

Throughout this on-going evolution, shifting from a district of singularity, Cairo downtown was the platform of progressive dramatic political movements, leading to directional activities of visions and perceptions, influencing its qualities, and transforming it to a district of hardship (Abaza, 2006; Ashour, 2003; Assy, 2006; Elshahed, 2007; Essa, 2013; Mehrez, 2011; Raafat, 2003; Singerman, 2009).

The research problem is the transformation in political, social, cultural and economic changes, lead to deformations affected the main attributes of Cairo Downtown. The deformations are recognized in the change from a city of singularity to a city of hardship. The current chapter addresses several further questions on how Cairo Downtown is considered as a reflection of sociopolitical evolutions. Another interesting question in this context is: what are the impacts of those evolutions that led to make it a district of hardship after being a glorious one?

This work traces the continually shifting of the hardship multi-attributes throughout downtown’s history that goes beyond reviewing its origin in the nineteenth century. Scanning the narratives from the Egyptian literature focus mainly on its transformation from the 40th and early 50th to the January revolution of the present state in the twenty-first century. In this reading, the current work begins with observations and readings of the Cairo Downtown transformation process and shifting manners from its origins as a city of singularity to the current tendency towards socio-political deviations.

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